Dear Esther – Part 7

Dear Esther,

On April 5, 2014, Carlow University announced the creation of an Institute for Women’s Leadership and Empowerment. Making the announcement, Suzanne Mellon, Carlow’s new president said, “There is a strong need to address the social and health disparities of women and the role that women’s leadership and voice can have for our community and the world. This Institute will increase the capacity of women to become skilled change agents and social entrepreneurs within communities regional to global.”
All of this seems rather familiar.

A similar leadership institute was put forth as a means of retaining the original mission of Chatham while allowing for coeducation.

In a blog post following the announcement, you included as one of the options post-coed:

  • That we create something perhaps called the “Chatham institute for Leadership and Gender Equality” where we coordinate our outreach centers, invite more visiting scholars and leaders, develop and offer an exceptional program and certificate in gender aware leadership available to both men and women, that is available to all our educational community, graduate and undergraduate as well as the external public. This move we would do wholeheartedly and with added investment would keep us in line with our traditional mission to advance women, but in a way more aligned with contemporary theories of equality and needs of women–as well as of men. (February 19th)

This revised, and limited, focus on women is not new for women’s colleges considering going co-ed.

In 2008, Rosemont College in Rosemont, PA employed an educational consulting firm called Stevens Strategy, and in a Work Group Executive Summary that includes information from the consulting firm, a recommendation is made for the college to “Commit to ‘leadership’ by developing a leadership program for high school women and a Leadership Training Institute for RC undergraduate students.”

(Chatham is also listed as a previous client for Stevens Strategy, though no date of client engagement is available on the consulting firm’s website.)

The idea of a women’s leadership institute, in any incarnation, is a diversion tactic to make the undergraduate college’s shift to co-ed palatable, but will not yield the full benefits of the College for Women.

A current search of the Rosemont College website reveals nothing, six years later, of the Leadership Training Institute suggested in the Executive Summary. The only similar entity is a Women’s Leadership Forum that seems to be a speaking series and not a full-fledged leadership institute.

Additionally, the creation of the new leadership institute at Carlow, and an already existent Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at Wilson College mean that the local market (well within the 200-mile recruiting radius often quoted) will be saturated with women’s leadership programs, yet no full women’s colleges within that same radius. By foregoing the women’s undergraduate college for a women’s leadership program, of any kind, Chatham will be ceding any natural advantage it would have as one of the ever-dwindling women’s colleges in the country. It is impossible to believe, at this point, that any women’s leadership institute or program that Chatham could adopt would be enough of a draw to make up for the enrollment deficit that you have cited.

The competition issue also doesn’t take into account the additional capital that would be required to invest in any additional faculty needed, building space, or branding of yet another new project, and if you are correct that the College for Women has already exhausted its financial resources, there is no way the University could afford this new endeavor.

A delay of the Board of Trustees vote.

Given the announcement by Carlow, coupled with other similar initiatives already in place within the region, we believe the co-ed vote should be delayed by at least a year. During that time we ask you and the administration to provide us with the following:

  • A detailed plan of the proposed leadership institute that you have mentioned in previous communications, including how this institute will differentiate itself from what Carlow has proposed.
  • A full accounting of the costs associated with start up and branding of the leadership institute.
  • An explanation of any previous knowledge you had regarding Carlow’s announcement and how that knowledge played into your suggesting the leadership institute immediately following the announcement of the co-ed proposal.

You have asked for our feedback, Esther, but are you and the Board really listening? If so, you will take this letter to heart and act upon our requests.

The Save Chatham Movement


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